Buncombe County voters wait in line to cast primary ballots outside Leicester Elementary School in 2016. File photo by Colby Rabon / Carolina Public Press

North Carolina voters finally had their chance to voice their opinions in the presidential primaries Tuesday, March 15, the same that day voters went to the polls in Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri — all sizable states with large numbers of precious delegates on the line.

Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton won the Democratic vote in North Carolina by a wide margin with 54.59 percent of the vote. Based on early results, Western North Carolina was one of the strongest areas for her opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Despite having dropped out of the race weeks ago, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley took 3.29 percent of the vote.

As results continued to come in Tuesday night, Clinton appeared headed for a big haul of delegates with wins in Ohio and Florida by wide margins, plus a narrow victory in Illinois. Sanders took an early but close lead in Missouri, however Clinton edged ahead in late vote-counting. At last reckoning, the two were locked in a virtual tie in Missouri, separated by less than 2,000 votes. Analysts have awarded delegates to them based on proportionality and districts, regardless of who is declared the eventual winner. With provisional and absentee ballots still to be assessed, that could be a while. Those anticipated delegate awards are included in the tally below.

Celebrity billionaire Donald Trump of New York won a relatively close Republican contest in North Carolina with 40.24 percent of the vote. Several WNC counties tilted toward Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas who was finished second with 36.77 percent. The two were expected to split most of the state’s delegates, with a few going to the other candidates.

Elsewhere Trump won Florida easily, prompting Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to announce he was quitting the race. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio won his home state. Trump also won in Illinois.

As with the Democrats in Missouri, the result there was difficult to call for Republicans with Trump leading Cruz by less than 2,000 votes. But in the Republican case, the winner gets the lion’s share of the delegates, even if the margin of victory is very close. The tally below records a conservative estimate of some of the delegates Trump will receive if he does indeed carry the state. This will be updated as the results are finalized.

In both major parties, the North Carolina primary ballots included presidential candidates who were no longer in the race, thanks to an early printing of ballots in January, before the first state caucuses and primaries.

Libertarians also were able to cast votes for president with former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico easily carrying North Carolina. No other minor parties had presidential candidates appearing on the North Carolina primary ballot.

Haywood County precinct Chief Judge Debbie Stamey interacts with David Cairnes as he presents his photo ID at the Canton Public Library to vote in the March 15, 2016 primary election. Colby Rabon / Carolina Public Press
Haywood County precinct Chief Judge Debbie Stamey interacts with David Cairnes as he presents his photo ID at the Canton Public Library to vote in the March 15, 2016 primary election. Colby Rabon / Carolina Public Press

State and National delegate totals

These numbers will be updated as additional information becomes available.

Democrats (including pledged super-delegates)

Democratic candidates need to win 2,383 of the party’s 4,764 delegates to claim their nomination. The Democratic National Convention will be July 25-28 in Philadelphia. Totals here include several hundred super-delegates who commit independently of voter choices. Prior to Tuesday, 465 had pledged to Clinton with 25 pledged to Sanders. However, some of those super-delegates could switch candidates if it becomes apparent that one or the other represents a liability to the party. Just under 38 percent of all delegates had been awarded or pledged as of March 13. Because only two Democratic candidates will win delegates, the person with the most delegates will win and there’s no chance of the brokered convention that remains a possibility for Republicans.

North Carolina: Clinton 59, Sanders 45
Florida: Clinton 133, Sanders 65
Illinois: Clinton 73, Sanders 70
Missouri: Clinton 34, Sanders 34
Ohio: Clinton 80, Sanders 62
Total for March 15: Clinton 379, Sanders 276
Total through March 14: Clinton 1,235 (68.04%), Sanders 580 (31.96%)
Total including March 15: Clinton  1,614 (65.3%), Sanders 856 (34.7%)
Totals as percentage of all 2016 delegates: Clinton 33.9%, Sanders 18.0%


Republican candidates need to win 1,237 of the party’s 2,472 delegates to claim their nomination. The Republican National Convention will be July 18-21 in Cleveland. Prior to Tuesday no candidate had a majority of delegates that had been chosen and all were far from a majority of all 2016 delegates.

NC: Cruz 27, Kasich 9, Rubio 6, Trump 29
FL.: Cruz 0, Kasich 0, Rubio 0, Trump 99
IL: Cruz 9, Kasich 5, Rubio 0, Trump 53
MO: Cruz 5, Kasich 0, Rubio 0, Trump 25
OH: Cruz 0, Kasich 66, Rubio 0, Trump 0
N. Marianas: Cruz 0, Kasich 0, Rubio 0, Trump 9

Total on March 15: Cruz 41, Kasich 80, Rubio 6, Trump 215
Previous total: Cruz 370 (34.26%), Kasich 63 (5.83%), Rubio 163 (15.09%), Trump 469 (43.43%)
Current total: Cruz 411 (28.9%), Kasich 143 (10.1%), Rubio 169 (11.9%), Trump 684 (48.1%)
Percentage of all 2016 delegates: Cruz 16.6%, Kasich 5.8%, Rubio 6.8%, Trump 27.7%, Others 0.6%

Coming up

A few more states and territories will conduct primaries, caucuses and state conventions during the rest of March and early April. A big prize will come April 19 when New York votes, followed the next week by Pennsylvania and a number of smaller northeastern states.

Other votes are set for May and June, with the biggest state, California, participating in a bloc of late primaries on June 7.

North Carolina voters are also set to return to the polls June 7, but only to select congressional candidates, thanks to a court decision that forced legislators to redraw the state’s district map.

When the all the presidential caucuses and primaries are done, still the end might not be yet.

If no candidate has enough delegates to claim a nomination outright, the decision goes to the party conventions. That appears unlikely with only two main candidates on the Democratic side, but the Republican delegate count could be more complicated if several candidates remain in the race.

There’s plenty of historical precedent for that happening, in fact it was quite common through the early 20th century. But it’s been a long, long time since either of the major parties has witnessed a brokered convention.

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Frank Taylor is the managing editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact him at ftaylor@carolinapublicpress.org.

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